The thriving, independent sector which organises volunteering trips for young people to the developing world is concerned about the UK Government’s plans to spend £35m on its International Citizens Service Programme.
The programme will subsidise 7,000 18 to 25 year olds to take volunteering trips abroad. Some will receive 100 per cent of their costs and others 50 per cent but help with fundraising. Why is the Government planning to interfere in this way in a thriving competitive sector which is dominated by SMEs?
The Government says it is committed to stimulating growth amongst SMEs to generate jobs and then uses public funds to compete with SMEs in our sector. It means that, in our case, Projects Abroad will pay tax so that business can be taken away from us by the Government. Since Projects Abroad was founded in 1992, the company has sent more than 41,000 volunteers to 27 different countries on five continents – now at a rate of over 8,000 a year.
Projects Abroad have instructed their lawyers to investigate the legality of the Government competing with private businesses under EU regulations. As far as I can see, what the Government is planning to do through the International Citizens Service Programme is directly opposed to its own principles of support for SMEs.
Dr Peter Slowe
Managing Director, Projects Abroad & Member, Labour’s Finance and Industry Group